Meet Itay: Jewish Trivia Host of the Week!

Itay Balely may or may not be best friends with Disney Channel’s Aly & AJ, is terrible at trivia, and is his grandmother’s #1 fan.

Allie: What led you to live in DC?

Itay: I was born in Israel and moved to Florida when I was young, but we later moved to Bethesda, Maryland. After high school I did a gap year in Israel, and then moved back to Maryland to work in higher education. I recently started a job at the Human Rights Campaign in DC, so this is where I’ve been living ever since!

Allie: Describe your dream DC day from start to finish.

Itay: I’d grab brunch with friends at a new restaurant in the city. We’re lucky we have such good food in DC! My friends and I have started to do this thing where we have a little picnic in the National Mall or nearby park with my guitar and have singalongs, so I’d definitely do that. I taught myself how to play guitar when I was younger, and love it. Then, I’d go to a record store. After that, I’d go watch a show at The Kennedy Center. I enjoy theater a lot and DC has a great theater scene.

Allie: What inspired you to learn guitar?

Itay: When we moved to Maryland, I was entering eight grade and everyone already had their cliques. I felt like I needed an outlet, so I decided to be emo and write songs.

Allie: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

Itay: I host District Trivia. It’s a very fun thing to do. I learn a lot of information you can’t do anything with but it’s just good to know. The team names are always the funniest things in the world. People are so into it and get really competitive, and that makes it all the more fun.

Allie: Are you good at trivia?

Itay: Oh no, I’m terrible. I don’t know the information at all.

Allie: I hear you recently met Disney Channel’s Aly & AJ…please tell me more.

Itay: It’s kind of insane how it all happened because in the last few years Aly & AJ released new music which transformed me from an average Disney-watching fan to a true Aly & AJ fan. I was talking about their new music at work and coincidentally one of my coworkers knew a friend of theirs. When she saw her friend – who happened to be with Aly and AJ – the girls sent me a video saying hello. I wound up taking to AJ for a bit and they gave me backstage passes to meet them at their DC show (which was packed)! It was such an amazing time.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to decompress at the end of a long work day?

Itay: I love binge-watching shows on Netflix. Schitt’s Creek is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I recently watched Dead to Me which is so good. I have way too many good show recommendations on my list.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Itay: My grandma, for sure. She’s been through a lot of adversity, but still produced a large family that loves being together. We recently went back to Israel to celebrate her 80th birthday.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Itay: Our grandmas talk about how proud they are.

itay

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pagaent 2019: Meet the Contestants!

Launched with brilliant, glittery fanfare in 2013 in the erstwhile Cobalt space, the 2019 Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pageant is bigger, flashier, and with lots more shmear.

Set to take place on August 4th at U Street Music Hall, the Pageant features four contestants competing for the title and the tiara – and a grand prize from VIDA. Nice Jewish Boys DC, an LGBT Jewish social organization based in Washington DC, is organizing the event.

“Now in our fourth year, this amazing event just keeps getting bigger and better,” said Ben Rosenbaum, President of Nice Jewish Boys DC. “The Mr. NJB Pageant is a chance to showcase our community and the amazing individuals who make it so special. This is our largest event of the year and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

The DC community has welcomed the pageant as a smashing success. Proceeds from the event benefit Keshet, one of the largest nationwide LGBTQ Jewish organizations that provides support, education, and resources to LGBTQ Jews of all ages. The event raised more than $4,000 for the organization, said co-organizer and 2017 runner-up Jeremy Gilston, “and we’re hoping to top that this year!”

Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 winner and 2019 co-organizer Jeremy Sherman said that there’s “no doubt that the Mr. NJB Pageant is a wildly entertaining event, but it’s so much more. Mr. NJB Pageant has become one of DC’s premier events for the Jewish LGBTQ+ community. It celebrates the community’s spirit, talents, and ability to come together for a greater cause.”

Contestants begin the show by seeking to wow the audience with a choreographed dance number. Following that, they undergo a rigorous interview from a panel of distinguished judges from the Jewish community, including at least one Jewish mother. Contestants finish with the talent portion. In the past, these have ranged from a rap about Bubbe to doling out homemade chicken soup.

Beyond bragging rights, this year, the contestants are competing for a VIDA Fitness full-year all-access gym membership with access to the pool and rooftop facilities, valued at about $2,000.

Also new this year: a performance by celebrated New York City-based Orthodox Jewish drag queen Lady SinAGaga.

“People in D.C. may not be familiar with Lady SinAGaga, but she is smart, funny, talented, and a Long Island-born former yeshivah boy turned drag queen! She is kind of New York City’s next Miz Cracker, who became a famous RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant,” said Gilston.

The event will also include a silent auction with donations from local businesses; all of these proceeds will also benefit Keshet.

Though they have big heels to fill, the four contestants participating in the pageant this year are promising to slay the stage themselves.

Now let’s meet the contestants!

Adam Gerstenfeld

First is Adam Gerstenfeld, a research analyst at an education nonprofit. He said that he should be the next Mr. Nice Jewish Boy “because I’m just a small town boy trying to make it in the big city.” Just as importantly, Adam says that he calls his mother every day. And “as Mr. Nice Jewish boy, I would offer to call Jewish mothers who don’t feel that their sons ring often enough.” To drive the point home, his special talent is a magical traditional Shabbat meal. He also claims that he can cure hiccups. Adam reports that as a summer theater camp kid, he once ripped his pants open in a competition attempting a split. There’s no word on whether there will be a repeat performance.

 

Ben Gersten

Next is Ben Gersten, a research scientist focusing on cancer drugs with a side hustle teaching Hebrew school. He claims that he should be crowned because of his backstory, having survived gay conversion therapy and then later getting a degree from Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He also claims to be great with Jewish moms. They can “count on me to chitchat about The New York Times over coffee, make sure their sons are eating, and to always bring a host gift.” Watch out when it comes to games, though, because “you can bet your tuches I’ll beat you in Jeopardy,” he says.

 

Jordan Aronowitz

The third contestant is Jordan Aronowitz, who is following his roots as an accountant. “But I’m a cool accountant,” he says. “I visit Navy bases to say hi to the boys in uniform.” He claims that he should win the crown because of his Jewish geography: he’s from Great Neck, New York, went to college in California, and is now an accountant in DC. He also notes that he’s a “buxom bombshell with a big personality and long eyelashes.” Since moving to Washington, DC, “the Jewish community has been my favorite part.” He also claims that he calls his mother on the daily.

Larry Komrower

Last but certainly not least is Larry Komrower, a coordinator of international education and study abroad programs. He, too, proclaims skill in the kitchen, but with a “killer” challah to match. Beyond being “nice, Jewish, and a boy,” Larry says that his deep involvement in the NJB community over the past several years proves that he should take the crown. Plus, he can “throw down a good showtune,” not to mention that he can do so in any of the four languages he speaks. “It has been refreshing to find a group in which I could make friends who are both gay and Jewish,” he says. His best friend and adorable pet Corgi agrees, “Larry has what it takes, WOOF!”

——-

Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 Runner Up and 2019 co-organizer Zach Levine is excited for each of these contestants, concluding that they are all winners for getting this far: “Participating in the Mr. NJB Pageant was, by far, one of the best decisions I have made since moving to the District. It introduced me to a Queer and Jewish community in DC I never knew I needed.”  

General admission tickets are $25 and limited VIP tickets come with a meet-and-greet with Lady SinAGaga.


About the Author: Evan Caplan hails from the second Jewish homeland (New York). After serving in the Peace Corps, he’s a longtime DC resident and onetime Jewish Guy of the Week. Evan is the Washington Blade food columnist when not at his day gig. Evan was also the runner-up in 2013. He won points for telling the Jewish mother judge that he would provide all the kosher meat that her vegetarian son would ever need.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Rose: Jewish Summer Intern of the Week!

GatherDC is lucky enough to have the one-and-only Rose Haas interning with us this summer. Get to know her below, and then follow a day in the life of her DC intern adventures as she takes over Gather’s Instagram this Friday!

rose

Allie: What led you to DC?

Rose: I initially moved to DC from California to attend American University and have been here for about three years. I’m a senior now, studying Jewish Studies and Special Education.   

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish.

Rose: It would definitely be in May, so that the weather would be warm and the sun out. It would also have to be a Sunday, so that I could go to Washington Hebrew Congregation in the morning and teach my class (4th grade Judaic Studies). Then, I’d go to Silver for brunch, because brunch is my favorite meal of the day! After that, I’d go swimming on a rooftop pool overlooking the city to sunbathe (I’m a California girl). Next, I’d go to dinner at Filomena in Georgetown – the best pasta restaurant – and then stroll by the Georgetown waterfront. After dinner, I’d swing by a GatherDC happy hour to meet some new friends, before going dancing anywhere that plays reggaeton music.    

Allie: What are you looking forward to you as an intern for GatherDC this summer?

Rose: I’m excited to help GatherDC on their mission to create a welcoming, inclusive, vibrant space for Jewish life in DC. I also want to continue their work in my personal life post-internship. I’d like to be someone that people come to when they are new to the city and looking for opportunities to explore and express their Judaism. I also hope to meet new friends and foster relationships with many of the people and organizations that Gather is connected with.  

Please email me if you want to grab coffee! I’d love to get to know you.

Allie: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Rose: I love scuba diving! I haven’t been in a couple years, but I love observing marine life and spending time in the sun, sand, and salt water.

Allie: Oh! Tell me more about that.

Rose: I have an open water diver certification and I’ve been diving on family trips a few times to places like Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, and of course the freezing waters in California. My favorite trip was definitely Honduras, because the water was so warm and clear and they had amazing food. On one trip, I got to swim with a whale shark which was one of the coolest experiences of my life!  

rose scuba

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Rose: Passover! It’s always been my favorite holiday because my family gets together for a delicious meal and we celebrate our freedom. We use this time to think of others who may be experiencing some form of bondage (literal or metaphorical) and how to help them. And let’s be real, what other Jewish holiday has songs that are straight BANGERS?! I start singing Dayenu in the shower at least a couple weeks in advance.    

Allie: What three people would you invite to your Shabbat dinner and why?

Rose: I don’t have three individual people’s names in mind, but I have three types of people who would make my dinner table more interesting. First, I’d invite someone who knows a lot about Judaism and could teach me something new and help facilitate an interesting discussion. Second, I’d invite someone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on Judaism, someone who can challenge my opinions and perspectives. And lastly, I’d invite someone who knows nothing about Judaism so that they might leave the dinner having learned something new.   

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rose: You’re bound to meet either a long lost cousin or your beshert.

rose

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Learning How to Say “I’m Sorry”

traylor

It’s the time of the Jewish year when we need to start figuring out one of the hardest things to do: apologize to people who we’ve hurt. No, it’s not time for Yom Kippur (you’ve got until October this year), but in this week’s Torah portion, “Parashat Naso”, we receive this wisdom:

“When a person commits any wrong toward a fellow man, thus breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes their guilt, they shall confess the wrong that they have done. They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it, giving to the person whom they have wronged.” – Numbers 5: 6-8

All of us make mistakes. We’re not always there for people, we talk bad about others, we ignore our families, and judge others too quickly. But it’s all about how we respond to these mistakes and repair the relationships we’ve harmed.

These verses don’t give us all the answers, but it clearly lays out the most important steps to say “I’m sorry” and move forward with our relationships:

  • “And that person realizes their guilt” – In order to start this process, you must recognize the harm you’ve caused;
  • “They shall confess the wrong they have done” – Next, tell the person how you’ve hurt them and apologize for your actions;
  • “They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it” – Name the negative impact you’ve had on the person; and
  • “Giving to the person whom they have wronged” – Work with the person toward repairing your relationship through giving and goodwill.

Again, Parashat Naso doesn’t give us all of the answers to effectively saying “I’m sorry.” But it’s a place to start, and one that will slowly rebuild the relationships in our lives.

 

 

——
evanAbout the Author: Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

Meet Rachel: Jewish Trapeze Artist of the Week!

Rachel Erlebacher flies on ropes through the sky, should have already been featured on The Great British Bake Off, and is training for her first marathon. Meet this amazing woman!

rachel

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Rachel: I majored in environmental studies in college, which led me to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). I kind of knew that my home [after college] would be in DC, because I love the political scene.

Allie: What sparked your interest in politics?

Rachel: I wanted to be able to make some sort of positive change in society. And I liked the idea of working with other people and collaborating on big ideas.

Allie: I bet working in government can get stressful at times. What are some of your favorite ways to relax when you’re not in the office?

Rachel: There’s three things. The first is running. I’m training for my very first marathon which is exciting. I’m running The Chicago Marathon in October, which is great because I can indulge in some deep dish pizza afterwards. I’m a firm believer that Chicago deep dish pizza is better than New York pizza, and that the Cubs are THE best baseball team.

All of my family is in Chicago, so it’s a very fitting place to run my first big marathon.

rachel

Allie: That’s amazing! What are the other two things you do to relax?

Rachel: The second is flying trapeze. That was something that had been sitting on my bucket list for a couple of years. I finally went to a class by myself this past December at the trapeze school in Navy Yard and fell in love with it. I loved the instructors and that feeling of being free. The school is in the dead center of DC, and the minute you walk in you just kind of feel like you escape.

Sometimes, I need to get away from the stress and the politics of the city, and trapeze lets me do that. Flying trapeze has also been a great way to connect with new people.

rachel trapeze

Allie: What do you enjoy most about flying trapeze?

Rachel: It’s a no judgment zone. You sign up for a class and there are no levels. The instructor will help you with whatever activity you are working on. There are no more than 10 people to a class and you have three instructors. You go up one at a time, so you get to cheer each other on. There is a very welcoming, communal spirit.

Allie: What’s the third thing you do to relax?

Rachel: Baking. My granny is an amazing baker and when I was little, she taught me the skills to make brownies. I’ve since expanded my repertoire. During the Shutdown, I actually started a small baking business to keep me busy, aptly named the Shutdown Sugar Shack. Now, I’ve started hosting Shabbat dinners through OneTable so I can practice new baking techniques, and don’t have to eat all of the sugary foods myself. Plus, I’m social and really enjoy hosting and bringing people together.

Allie: What do you bake for your Shabbat dinners?

Rachel: This year, I hosted a crazy cookie party themed Shabbat where I created homemade versions of your favorite store-bought cookies like those Little Debbie cosmic brownies, Oreos, things like that. I think I baked 200 cookies that week, it was so fun! Most recently, I planned one that was Great British Bake Off themed.

rachel baking

Allie: How do you find time to sleep?

Rachel: I sacrifice that a bit. I’m someone who over commits and really likes to keep busy. I’m Monica Geller in a nutshell!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel: The Jewish geography game is super real. Every time I meet someone new in this city, we always have a new mutual friend. I recently invited a girl from my trapeze class to my Shabbat dinner!

 

————————————————————

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Ari: Jewish Coffee Lover of the Week!

Before he departs our great city for the Grecian life this summer, Ari is someone you better get to know. He’s obsessed with coffee, dreams of taking a cross country bike ride, and cannot wait for his first DC Pride!

ari weinstein

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ari: I’m originally from Minneapolis and then moved to Boston. I just graduated a year ago from college, and my friend asked me if I wanted to move into an apartment with him in DC. I wound up getting a job at the EDCJCC’s GLOE.

Ari: What led you to your role with GLOE?

Ari: I had done a lot of different things related to LGBTQ programming and events. Most recently, I was involved in LGBTQ inclusion at the summer camp I grew up going to – Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Working at GLOE was a really exciting opportunity to take my energy and excitement for LGBTQ inclusion and programming in Jewish spaces into a new capacity.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC.

Ari: I definitely know that I need to start with coffee. I’m addicted to coffee, and I used to work at Tryst which was very enabling. I’d go to the Hirschhorn for a while and get ice cream at some point. I love those electric scooters and would want to ride one of those. Sunset is my favorite time of day, so I’d go up to my rooftop with a cup of tea to watch the sunset.

Allie: I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’re actually leaving DC soon! Is this true?

Ari: Yes, I’m leaving DC in a couple weeks. I am going to Queer Talmud Camp in California, and then working at Camp Ramah. In August, I’m moving to Greece to work with an organization related to LGBTQ refugee assistance in Athens.

Allie: Before you say goodbye to the District, what’s on your DC bucket list?

Ari: I just checked off one of the things which was to go to Mama Ayesha’s, which was really good. I want to go to The Phillips Collection soon. On my life bucket list, I’d love to go on an extended, cross country biking trip.

Allie: For your last hurrah with GLOE, you’re planning a lot of fun events for DC Pride. Tell me about those.

Ari: This is my first DC Pride, which is exciting. I’m working on a bunch of things we’ll have going on throughout the week.

On Wednesday, June 5th, GLOE is co-hosting the Annual Big Queer Jewish Happy Hour in AdMo. You’re all invited and should come to that!

On Friday, June 7th, we’re having the National Pride Shabbat with Sixth & I and Bet Mishpachah.

Then, Saturday, June 8th is the big whammy day! At 11:30am – everybody should stop by GatherDC because GLOE is going to be having a bagel brunch here. It’s free, and open to anyone in the LGBTQ community and allies. Later on, we’ll have a poster-making event for LGBTQ families, then GLOE is meeting up with the RAC for an event in Dupont, and after that we’ll be marching together in the parade.

On Sunday, June 9th is the Pride Festival and GLOE will have a booth there.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Ari: I love Shabbat because of the regularity of it. It’s a reminder that you have to take a break in your life. I grew up observing Shabbat every single week with my family and the rhythm of this was ingrained in me. Finding a way to set aside time to celebrate Shabbat each has definitely been an adjustment as an adult.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Ari: There’s a lot of schmoozing!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Sarah: Jewish Singer of the Week!

Singer and songwriter in local band Secret Beach, Sarah Diamond is one of the coolest DC Jews we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Get to know her…

sarah

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Sarah: I’m originally from California, but I was born in India, and lived in Ghana in high school. When it came time to go to college, I wanted to live in an international city and study international relations. I went to American University and was planning to go back to California, but ended up getting an internship in DC at NPR and decided to stay here.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish (assuming money is no object).

Sarah: OH my goodness. Are we allowed outside the official DC borders? Hypotheticals are hard! I’d wake up, go for a bike ride to the Takoma Farmer’s Market, and get a bunch of fresh ingredients for brunch. Then, I’d hire a private chef at an outdoor kitchen to help my friends and me cook up a big brunch, and then we’d all eat together. After that, I’d sunbathe and read a good book.

In the evening, we’d put on an intimate, outdoor, backyard, concert with my favorite bands. My band would play as well, and it would be catered by Timber Pizza. We’d dance all night and stargaze through a telescope brought to the event by a member of the DC Astrological Society (not sure this exists) so they can explain all things celestial.  

Allie: I hear you perform with a local acapella group. Has music always been a big part of your life?

Sarah: I grew up playing music. My dad was my music and drama teacher in school, and I would play and listen to music with him a lot. That was our bonding thing. I was also the only Jewish kid in my choir growing up, so I had to sing the token Hanukkah songs by myself at holiday time. It was mortifying.

sarah

Allie: What is the acapella group that you’re part of in DC?

Sarah: It’s called Makela and is really fun! I also sing in a band and write music, so [acapella] really helps me improve my voice and think about cool and different arrangements for songs. [Editor’s note: Check out Makela on YouTube!]

Allie: Ohh…tell me about this band.

Sarah: We’re called Secret Beach. I’m the singer and guitarist, so acapella is really helpful for keeping my voice fit and ready to perform.

Allie: What kind of music do you play?

Sarah: We play 50% originals and 50% covers. Our repertoire includes everything from Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones, to Aerosmith, Billie Eilish, and Yebba. We like to genre-bend and put our own spin on covers. We’re playing June 2nd at Velvet Lounge, come dance with us!

Allie: Do you have a favorite type of music you like to sing?

Sarah: I like jazz and folk singing. I especially like jazz because it’s challenging and vocally, goes places you don’t expect. Female jazz singers are badass and my inspirations.

Allie: I heard that you recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat. What was that like?

Sarah: Beyond the Tent was really eye-opening. It gives you a different way of thinking about Judaism. I still think about it and talk about it.

Allie: What was your favorite memory from Beyond the Tent?

Sarah: Playing music. A bunch of us just got together to play, and at the time I thought we sounded really good. We were very enthusiastic.

Allie: If you could invite three people to your Shabbat dinner, who would you invite and why?

Sarah: Dead or alive? Do they have to come if I invite them? Important stipulations. Regardless, I would invite my mom, dad, and sister because I really really like them.

Allie: Complete this sentence, when Jews of DC Gather…

Sarah: They play Jewish jeopardy and ultimately have at least one friend in common.

sarah


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Jewish Dog of the Month: Pesto!

Meet Pesto of House Lieberman. Son of Allison and Michael Lieberman. First of his name. Cavachon of the Great Outdoors. King of the Instagram. Father of early rising.

pesto

Sarah: What is your name?

Pesto: Hi everyone! I’m Pesto Moshe Lieberman. I’m a 3-year old cavachon – but don’t be fooled by the breed; I’m a big boy – over 30 lbs! You can follow my adventures @pesto_lieberman.

Sarah: Where did your name come from?

Pesto: My pawrents had a long list of potential names for me and Pesto was one of them. I was born when they were on their honeymoon in Italy so it seemed like the right choice!

Sarah: What is your favorite way to spend a day in DC?

Pesto: First, I wake up around 6:30 am (sorry mom!) and we go for a walk in my ‘hood. I eat breakfast, which sometimes includes cereal, because as mom says, it’s Special K for a special boy 🙂

If it’s the weekend, we go to Rosedale Conservancy in Cleveland Park, followed by a trip to Little Red Fox DC where I get lots of pets and crumbs.

pesto

Sarah: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Pesto: One of my Instagram furriends told me I was “the George Clooney of cavachons!”.

Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Pesto: My dad! From being nap bros to playing ball together, he is the best!

Sarah: What is your biggest pet peeve that your owner does?

Pesto: Go to work :/

Sarah: What’s your favorite smell?

Pesto: Butts! (Or should I say tuches ;))

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Pesto: Rosh Hashanah! My Puppy Bubby makes me a very special treat called “Pesto Pops”, which are individual ice cubes of homemade chicken soup with a side of carrot. What can I say, I’m a lucky guy!


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Aliza: Jewish Rooftop Lounger of the Week!

This International Spy Museum media relations manager invites you into her top-secret world of Sydney Bristow fandom, dumplings, and DC rooftops. Get an inside look into the life of Aliza Bran!

aliza bran eating ice cream

 

Allie: Have you always been interested in spies?

Aliza: As a child, I wanted to be best friends with Sydney Bristow from Alias. I was obsessed with Jennifer Garner for years. Still am. I always found it fascinating that you can enter a world that is completely secret, where you can conceal devices into everyday items you own. I watched 24, and anything spy related. I’ve been intrigued by the fiction and reality of espionage for as long as I can remember.

Allie: What makes a good spy?

Aliza: Attention to detail. Being good under pressure. Really, it depends on what you’re doing. Analysts need to be inquisitive and precise – and careful not fall into mental traps or give into their cognitive biases. The spies on the ground doing human intelligence work need some serious courage and umph.

Allie: What is it like working at the spy museum?

Aliza: It is objectively the best job ever. You’re surrounded by the weirdest, craziest, and most intriguing stories from around the world. So it’s pretty amazing to do this full time and get to share those stories with others. And I get to work with really incredible people. The educational/curatorial folks who worked so hard to put together the content for the exhibit space are brilliant. Our comms team is amazing (I’m biased, but I’m also right).

Plus, I get to work closely with some of our incredible board members like Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, who never fails to teach me something new…most recently from her book The Moscow Rules.

Allie: Is the new Spy Museum open to the public yet?

Aliza: Yes! It just opened this past weekend. Come join us! You can get tickets online – bring a date, your friends, your family, your Uber driver, whoever!

aliza and marissa

Allie: Describe your perfect day in DC.

Aliza: I’d wake up, do dim sum brunch and consume all of the dumplings. Then, I’d head down to The Wharf and go kayaking and make s’mores! Then, I’d go sit on a rooftop and read a book. Rooftops are my happy place. For the evening I might go to The Eleanor and bowl with friends or play some ping pong at SpinDC. Catch live music at the 930 Club or Union Stage or the Anthem. Dinner at a sushi place – Zeppelin, Momiji, etc. – anything with eel sauce is my favorite! The biggest problem would be fitting it all in.

Allie: Do you have a favorite DC rooftop?

Aliza: The one at American Son is really nice. There’s also El Techo, the Colada Shop, Crimson, Mi Vida. Really, I’ll go to any rooftop. What’s better than a good rooftop in the summertime?

Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax at the end of a long work week?

Aliza: Either I would binge watch something on Netflix or read a book. I try to read about 20-25 books a year, so I have a huge soft spot for my DC library membership. It’s the best! There is nothing that beats getting absorbed into a new world. Obviously, I would also spend time outside with friends, maybe a weekend picnic in Meridian Hill Park with tons of cheese and carbs.

aliza traveling

Allie: If you could invite three people to your Shabbat dinner? Who would you invite and why?

Aliza: Taylor Swift. Do I need a reason? She is amazing. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Jon Stewart. He does not grace the world with his presence nightly anymore and I want to know what’s up with the animals on his farm.

Allie: What’s at the top of your life bucket list?

Aliza: Greece. I want to see the ruins, take in the history, enjoy the beaches, and eat all the food.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aliza: Passover. It’s one of the few holidays that my extended family comes into DC for. It’s nice to have them here, and catch up with my cousins, aunts/uncles, and my grandma (who is one of the nicest, most wonderful humans I’ve ever met). It’s all about community. Plus, my mom’s food is AMAZING. And my dad is clutch at picking up some delicious desserts (meaning ALL of the ice cream)!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aliza: They have a darn good time.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Getting High and Talking Torah

BREAKING NEWS! Judaism’s newest, hottest podcast has officially arrived. As two soon-to-be Jewish DC alums, we wanted to share an exciting new project we have officially launched with our favorite group of Jews.

Sufficiently Chai, our brand new Jewish-themed comedy podcast, aims to disrupt the traditional narrative that Judaism is outdated and inaccessible for the average person. We both realized that we were much more connected to our Judaism than the average Millennial Jew, and we wanted to create something that helped make Judaism relatable and relevant to everyday life for people in their 20s and 30s.

We decided to chat with GatherDC’s podcast connoisseur Julie Thompson to share the big news.

rachel and lindsey

Julie: Walk me through an episode; what can listeners expect to hear?

Lindsey: Each episode contains a D’var Torah (a discussion about the week’s Torah portion) and a JewISH, which explores various aspects of secular life through a Jewish lens. We always close out the episodes by playing a couple games, and we’re committed to keeping the episodes funny, entertaining, and rated at least PG-13.

Rachel: You’ll be laughing so much you won’t realize until the end that you’ve actually learned something – and that’s exactly the point.

Julie: Why did you decide to incorporate marijuana into the podcast?

Lindsey: If you know us, you know we had to spice it up a little bit and it couldn’t JUST be a Torah study podcast. So, we decided to incorporate something else – the cannabis component.

Rachel: One in four Millennials consume marijuana, and by loosening the stigma around recreational marijuana use and infusing it with Jewish learning, we realized we could connect with a generation of listeners who would be otherwise less than likely to tune in to a Jewish themed podcast.

Lindsey: Smoking a joint and studying the Torah do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, we believe they go hand in hand.

Julie: What motivated you to launch this podcast?

Lindsey: We’re two 20-something Jewish blondes living on the edge of glory (or so we wish) in the nation’s capital, trying to figure out who we are, what we want, and how to find meaning in a society where so many things feel out of our control. We confirmed what we already knew – that there’s a void in the Jewish-themed comedy podcast space dying to be filled. Then, we decided to do our civic duty and put our love of learning and hearing ourselves talk to good use. And thus, our brain child, Sufficiently Chai, was born.

Julie: What are your goals for this podcast?

Rachel: We ultimately want to be famous. Just kidding! Kinda! Obviously worldwide acclaim and recognition is the overall dream, but we realize that may be a stretch. In the immediate future, we want:

1) People to listen to the podcast;

2) To help listeners connect to Judaism in an alternative, but relatable way.

Julie: Anything else you want to say to your current and future listeners?

Lindsey: As we figure out the world of podcasting, we want people to want what we’re giving to them! We want all kinds of feedback (unless it’s just really rude and aggressive then you can keep it to yourself), and we’re always thinking of new, interesting ways to engage with our audience.

Rachel: We’re committed to making this podcast as amazing as possible in every way we can. We have a blast recording every episode and we want to show the secular Jewish community that Judaism and religion can be fun and entertaining.

Lindsey: Sixth & I – we’re looking at you if you want a live show anytime soon.

Sufficiently Chai co-hosts Lindsey and Rachel


Find Sufficiently Chai on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and anywhere else you get your podcasts. For updates, sources, and tbh hilarious content, follow us on Instagram @Sufficiently_Chai.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.